A patient with coronavirus is admitted to hospital in England “every 30 seconds”, the chief executive of the NHS has warned.
Simon Stevens said on Sunday the health service had never been in a more precarious position.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “The facts are very clear and I’m not going to sugar-coat them, hospitals are under extreme pressure and staff are under extreme pressure.
“Since Christmas Day we’ve seen another 15,000 increase in the in-patients in hospitals across England, that’s the equivalent of filling 30 hospitals full of coronavirus patients.
“Staggeringly, every thirty seconds across England another patient is being admitted to hospital with coronavirus.”
He added: “We have got three-quarters more Covid inpatients now then we had in the April peak.
“Although we are seeing some promising signs of the steadying of the infection rates, the fact is they are still far too high and, among some age groups, still rising.”
In more positive news, Stevens said 140 vaccination jabs were now being delivered “every minute”.
More than 3.5 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine and some 324,000 doses were administered in the space of 24 hours.
Boris Johnson has set a target for itself of vaccinating two million people a week.
The government is aiming to vaccinate the most vulnerable 14 million people by February 15.
Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said on Friday he expected the peak of new hospital admissions of people with coronavirus will be “over the next week to 10 days”.
Another 1,295 deaths in the UK were reported on Saturday, the third-highest daily total since the pandemic began, but the lowest number of lab-confirmed cases this year was reported — 41,346.
The figures will be seen as a sign that infections may be levelling off or falling as a result of the lockdown measures, though scientists believe the peak in deaths will come later.